Mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to support London’s local press amid fears that a fall in sales and investment could harm accountability and democracy.
Local papers play a key role in ensuring councils and other public bodies are properly scrutinised, but a London Assembly report published today finds that “the majority of local newspapers” have suffered a fall in sales in recent years.
AMs warn that this, coupled with job losses and a move away from ‘on-the-ground’ news reporting and investigative journalism, risks creating a “democratic deficit” by leaving bodies under-reported.
Today’s report urges Mr Khan to work alongside the National Union of Journalists and other organisations to fund diversity bursaries and establish a digital journalism apprenticeship to ensure future journalists have the necessary skills.
AMs also want Transport for London, which is chaired by the Mayor, to trial offering local newspapers on local bus routes to ensure digitally and news-excluded communities have access to local news.
Fiona Twycross, author of the report, said: “Having an active local news force is essential to ensure we are able to hold to account Government, local councils and other organisations that have huge responsibilities to Londoners.
“We’ve seen a flurry of job losses and local news publications go under recently and this is a worrying trend.
“Local news must be protected.
“As local news publications look to the future, it is essential that we don’t leave those who are digitally excluded behind.
“Urgent action is needed to support local news and the Mayor of London can show real leadership in standing up for local news at this critical time.”